Being Led By God

Numbers 9:17
“Whenever the cloud was taken up from above the tabernacle, after that the children of Israel would journey; and in the place where the cloud settled, there the children of Israel would pitch their tents.”

God established a pretty clear method of directing Israel through the wilderness. They were traveling roads they had never been on, through obstacles they had never faced before, to a destination none of them had ever seen. In order to ensure they arrived safely, God chose to use a cloud to direct their journey. In a sense, they had the first ever GPS system. When it was time to go, the cloud started moving and when it was time to camp, the cloud stopped. I am sure all of us wish we had a cloud that moved when it was time to move so we could always know the way the Lord wants us to walk.

I think it is important that while the cloud is no longer God’s method of guiding His people, He has not left us without a direction. His Word is designed to help us navigate our way through life. The more difficult the way, the more important it is that we look into the Word for direction. For the most part, it is not that we do not know what God wants us to do, but rather we struggle to obey. The Bible gives us clear direction, but we are resistant because of lack of faith or fear of losing our personal comforts. It is time for us to move when the cloud moves and live in obedience to the teachings of Scripture, no matter what obstacles we might be facing.

Pastor Jim

 

Unattended Children 

Joel 1:3
“Tell your children about it,
Let your children tell their children,
And their children another generation.”

The days in which Joel lived were quite difficult. Israel was experiencing economically difficult times, brought about by locust swarms that had devastated the crops. Individual families were suffering greatly, finding it difficult to make ends meet, or even provide enough food for the table. For the most part, people would associate their problems with natural occurrences; today we might blame it on mother nature. Joel, on the other hand, declared the condition of the nation was actually brought about because of the spiritual condition of the people. He declared, things would only change when repentance occurred.

While it was important to declare this message in the chambers of the king and in the public gatherings of the people, Joel had another setting in mind where the message must be clearly taught. He wrote to parents, to make sure they instructed their children to look at life through the filter of the revelation of God. Rather than seeing life through the eyes of pop culture, we must instruct our children to see the world the way God views it.

The responsibility for passing truth to the next generation is left primarily in the hands of the parents. The church, its children’s ministry or youth group, play a role, but parents bear the primary responsibility before God, of instructing their children in the ways of the Lord. The most effective way to do this is for parents to lead by example. Our kids should learn a proper world view because we have instructed them in the ways of the Lord, and set an example with our lifestyle.

Take some time today to talk with your children about the way to effectively follow Christ. If there is any area of compromise in your life, set it aside for the sake of your children.

Pastor Jim

 

Smoke 

Hosea 13:3
“Therefore they shall be like the morning cloud and like the early dew that passes away, like chaff blown off from a threshing floor and like smoke from a chimney.”

When we are young everything seems to take forever, but the older we get, the more we realize how brief life really is. It seems as though I finally get used to writing the calendar year, and suddenly it’s time to change the last a digit. There is nothing we can do to change the brevity of life, but there is much we can do to ensure that our life has a lasting impact on others.

The Bible declares the life of the wicked is like smoke from a chimney that rises and is gone. The righteous, on the other hand, leave a lasting impact on the world. We don’t have to invent the light bulb or discover a planet to leave an impact on the world. Instead, we must leave a righteous standard for others to follow.

A praying grandma, bible reading father, or faithful mom who serves alongside her children at their local church, will have a long lasting impact upon the generations to come. I cannot tell you how often I hear someone tell me their uncle, brother, grandpa or dad was a pastor, and it is usually in the context of them returning to the Lord, or desiring to serve Him more. I have a friend who spent years in the business world, only to one day decide to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a pastor. He now pastors a large church where many are being impacted for the kingdom of heaven.

Let’s live like our life matters, seeking to store up treasures in heaven and leaving a pattern for others to follow.

Pastor Jim

 

Confusion

Hosea 4:6
“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…”

The days of Hosea were very dark; the nation had wandered from the ways of God and idolatry was as common in Israel as it was in the pagan nations that surrounded it. Just about every hilltop was the site of an altar to one false god or another, and immorality was rampant throughout the land. While many factors led to their diseased spiritual condition, Hosea addresses the primary one. He says the people were so easily led astray because of their lack of knowledge of God and His Word. This was both the fault of the individual and of the leaders.

Way back in the wilderness, God set aside the tribe of Levi to assist the priests in ministering to the people. Along with helping in the sacrifices, and other worship ordinances around the Temple, they were spread throughout the land and given the responsibility to instruct the people in the ways of God. Sadly, in many cases, those who had been commissioned to teach the people, did very little to expound upon the Scriptures and instruct the people. Though thousands of years have passed, things are not so different today. Many Christian leaders have lost sight of the importance of teaching the Word of God to the people of God. Some have left the Bible for ritual, others have turned the sanctuary into a political platform, and still others seem to think the purpose of the pulpit is to entertain the people or to stir them to a frenzy. You might not be able to control what happens in the pulpit, but you can control what pulpit you place yourself under. Be sure you are attending a church where the Word of God is being taught.

The leaders were not the only ones who had failed to teach the Word. God designed the home as the primary place where children are instructed in the ways of God. Sadly, many families gave up that responsibility expecting others to care for the spiritual needs of their kids. We do not have to be a scholar to instruct our children from the Bible. All we need to do is spend time in the Word with our children, and search the scriptures for direction when we face a situation we do not know how to handle.

Much of what is wrong in life can be resolved by simply becoming familiar with what the Bible says, and putting it into practice in our daily lives.

Pastor Jim

 

A Shepherd’s Heart 

Ezekiel 34:7
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord”

This chapter contains some of the most valuable and important instruction for anyone seeking to be involved in Christian ministry. In it, Ezekiel explains the role of the servant of God, by using the imagery of a shepherd. As a shepherd must care for the sheep of his pasture, so a person seeking to serve Christ must care for the people of God. Ezekiel explains how to go about doing this by contrasting the leaders of his day with the ministry of the coming Messiah. A careful look through this chapter will reveal many of the roles and responsibilities of anyone who wants to serve Christ.

First off, it is worth noting, the leaders were failing because they were feeding themselves instead of feeding the sheep. A person who looks at the people of God for what they can do for him and his ministry goals, instead of for what he can do for them and their growth in Christ, is behaving more like a butcher than a shepherd. It is the primary role of the shepherd to ensure that the sheep are well fed. Scant, weak, and frail sheep are evidence that the shepherd has failed to do his job, more than it is an indictment on the sheep themselves. If you want to be an effective minister, you need to get to know the word of God, and share it faithfully with others. Paul did this by declaring the whole counsel of God, and not picking and choosing select subjects that he enjoyed teaching.

Ezekiel also explains that the shepherds failed because they neglected to seek after hurt, broken, and scattered sheep. Jesus illustrated the role of the shepherd when He said He would leave the ninety-nine healthy sheep and seek after the one that is lost (Luke 15:4-6). A true shepherd will seek to minister to the needs of the sheep. Often, a hurting Christian will speak or act out of their pain. Instead of judging them harshly for their behaviors, we should seek to minister to the cause of their actions.

There is no shortage of hurting, wandering, damaged and scattered people in every community in the world. If we will look at others through the eyes of Christ we will find that we have wide open doors for ministry.

Pastor Jim

 

 

Our Influence 

Ezekiel 23:37
“For they have committed adultery with their idols, and even sacrificed their sons whom they bore to Me, passing them through the fire, to devour them.”

Ezekiel points out that the sins of the parents resulted in the sacrifice of the children. When they stopped following the Lord, their decision impacted the next generation. I think it would do us good to keep in mind that we have a much greater influence on others than we might think. Jesus compared us to a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14). Paul explained, the whole world is watching the Christian as though we were on display. When we decide to commit ourselves to the Lord, living to please to Him, that decision will impact others. People will take notice and decide to further their commitment  to Christ. On the other hand, if we wander from the Lord, we will have a domino effect upon others who may fall along with us.

Remember, after the death of Christ, when Peter decided to return to fishing? He was distraught over the events that had transpired, and he seems to have stepped backwards in his relationship with Christ. I find it interesting, he was not fishing alone, other men were drawn away with him. This always seems to be the case. The decisions we make, for or against the Lord, will always create a current, pulling others along with us.

Let’s make sure to keep pressing toward the Lord.

Pastor Jim

 

Did You Hear That?

Titus 2:1
“But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine”

The purpose of the teachings of God’s Word is not simply information. We should not expect a test when we arrive in heaven or a pop quiz along the way. Instead, we learn the Word so we might behave right. Sound doctrine must lead us to sound living. Elsewhere, we read of the doctrine that accords with godliness. When our understanding of God is correct, we will worship, live, act, react and speak in ways that are pleasing to God. Here, Paul exhorts Titus to speak properly. While proper speaking would include praise, evangelism, and encouraging others, it also avoids gossip, slander, backbiting and complaining. Paul is referring specifically to the things Titus would be teaching within the church. He divides the body into groups based upon age, gender and vocation; encouraging proper behavior from each of them.

It is clear from this chapter that Paul expected believers to minister to believers. Titus would be responsible for teaching the people, the people would be responsible to minister to one another, and to share Christ with others. A couple of key principles of ministry are woven through the text.

First, Paul exhorted the older believers to minister to younger ones. That is, those who have walked with the Lord and gone through the experiences of life, should be seeking to assist those who are new to the faith, or not as far along on the journey. What a blessing it is when those who have raised their families, now serve in Children’s Ministry, assisting the children of the young families. It is such a benefit when a more mature believer takes the time to disciple a younger Christian; investing time by taking them into the Word and prayer.

Second, Paul reminds us that the way we live will either impede or empower the things we share. He warns of the Word of God being blasphemed by wrong behavior. The gospel message cannot be communicated without words. Paul asked the Romans “how will they hear without a preacher?” We must courageously share Christ with our friends, family and co-workers, but words alone are not enough, we must live it. The world wants to see Christianity, not just hear about it. They should see it in the way we treat them, each other, and especially our families. Paul speaks of the relationship between the young husband and wife. When that relationship is godly, others will be attracted to the Lord.

Finally, Paul wrote, women should minister to women, and men to men. That is a pretty good rule of thumb for ministry. I think it is a good idea for men to get plugged into men’s groups, and women into the women’s study. While we can grow without personal relationships, it is my experience that our growth is enhanced when we take the time to establish relationships with others of the same gender, and dig into the Word together.

Pastor Jim